Luka Modric has improved with every season since his Tottenham move and dictates Real’s build-up play with incredible ease. Meanwhile, Casemiro has proven the perfect midfield anchor and a general modern day Claude Makelele.
You’d be hard pressed to argue that anybody but Toni Kroos, though, is the pièce de résistance.
The German midfielder established himself at Bayern Munich as a formidable physical and technical force in the midfield. He accumulated 205 appearances, garnered three Bundesliga titles and the Champions League.
There was simply no questioning his direction when Real Madrid came knocking fresh from his World Cup victory in 2014, however.
It’s incredible to think that his transfer fee of €30 million is smaller than the offer with which Everton captured Jordan Pickford in this year’s transfer climate.
Three years on from that move and aside from Real looking like they’d secured the bargain of the decade, it’s received little attention – especially not regarding the motives.
As much as Bayern are a European juggernaut in itself, the reasons for moving to the Bernabeu are almost always clear: fame, prestige, history, money and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Surprisingly, though, there’s more to it in Kroos’ case. Long-term friend and ex-Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Stefan Reinartz reminisced on the move and offered a shock insight.
As per Bleacher Report he explained: “It was a little bit about money. Bayern Munich offered Toni a new contract. Toni knew what Mario Gotze was earning at Bayern Munich; Toni and Mario Gotze are [roughly] the same age.
“Bayern Munich didn’t want to pay Toni more than €10 million.
“Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told Toni: ‘We won’t pay you more than €10 million a year because you’re not a world-class player.’ If you know Toni, it’s not about money. He needs the confidence of other people.
“He knew he was a very good player, a world-class player. That was the breaking point.”
When your own CEO is doubting your ability, it’s got to be a low blow and it was the final straw for Kroos. Furthermore, this is no ordinary CEO but a man with 320 appearances for Bayern and a World Cup final goal.
Yet Rummenigge’s obliviousness cost Bayern dearly and they simply haven’t been close to Champions League glory since. He can’t have been sitting comfortably during last season’s quarter-final, that’s for sure.
Do you think Toni Kroos is the best midfielder in the world? Have your say in the comments section below.